Sheffield United: Why it should come as no surprise to see Hull City swoop for George Long; a goalkeeper who is likely to play his best football away from Bramall Lane
When Sheffield United made George Long available for transfer it was no surprise that Nigel Adkins, their former manager, pushed himself to the front of the queue.
The 53-year-old, whose 12 month reign at Bramall Lane came to an ignominious end two summers ago, has probably shown more faith in the young goalkeeper than any other coach since he progressed through the South Yorkshire club's youth system. Indeed, one of Adkins' last acts before he was relieved of his duties following one forgettable season, was to offer
Long an enhnced and improved contract after selecting him a total of 38 times during the 2015/16 campaign.
It did not auger well when, after being appointed as Adkins' successor, Wilder's first was to renegotiate the terms and conditions his predecessor had signed-off before eventually honouring the deal. When Simon Moore was signed soon after, Long and those around him suspected his time with his hometown club was effectively up.
Long, who could complete his move to the KCOM Stadium later today after undergoing a medical with Adkins' latest employers, is a fine player and committed professional. Despite suffering a frustrating spell on loan at Oxford, he excelled during a similar stint with AFC Wimbledon last term after, in the cauldron that is Ibrox, helping Motherwell preserve their Scottish Premiership status with a heroic performance against Glasgow Rangers. But there were times when the pressure of representing United appeared to weigh heavily on his shoulders. One mistake sometimes led to a collapse of confidence, particularly towards the end of his time with the club. It was a habit which prompted Wilder to look elsewhere, with Jamal Blackman and most recently Dean Henderson following Moore to United. But it must be remembered the majority of his 123 appearances were more than comptent. Working for Adkins, a staunch defender of Long's talents, could reinvigorate a career in need of direction. And, given Wilder's desire to keep a tight grip on wage costs, the agreement seems to suit everyone involved.
With David Marshall already in situ, Long faces a battle to earn a starting role at the KCOM Stadium. But with City scheduled to visit United in the EFL Cup next month, he could enjoy an early opportunity to face Wilder's side and stake a claim for the number one jersey.